Friday, June 06, 2008

Poetry Friday: You and Me, May Be

In college, I was good friends with Erika of the vibrant red hair and chocolate brown eyes. When Erika started to date Mark, my fellow English major, we all were pleased. They were great together, and they didn't make their single friends feel awkward with all of their smoochiness. We knew they were bound to get married, but they wanted the engagement to be an event of sorts. Mark took his time. Sometimes, Erika would yell to Mark across campus, "Slow!" Mark told Erika that when he proposed, the whole campus would know.

Mark and I were both on the board of a poetry publication called Broadside. Normally, the submissions we'd get would be anonymous (unless they were by Seamus Heany, Denise Levertov, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, or Gwendolyn Brooks, and yes, I'm showing off now). However, Mark submitted the following poem signed with his name:



Mark was open to some suggestions for tweaking the poem, but not to others. "Rhyme and rhythm stays," he said. I noted privately that it was intriguing as to why Mark had chosen to justify the margins of the poem, but foolish mortal that I was, didn't pursue the matter.

We published the poem as we did all the Broadside poems: on a single piece of heavy paper, with the poet signing each one for a byline. Everyone on campus who subscribed to Broadside received the poem. Soon after, I got an excited phone call from Erika. "Mark proposed! Mark proposed!" she said. She told me that he read the poem aloud to her and then told her to read the first and last letters down each side of the poem: They spelled, "WILL YOU marry me."

Some of the grownup subscribers in the community complained that they thought the poem was misogynistic, but when one of the English professors pointed out the double acrostic, they said, "Oh, okay then." It was usually fun when a Broadside poem raised any sort of fuss, because it was evidence that the poetry did matter.

Mark and Erika got married at the college church. It was a lovely service, the maids of honor wore green velvet dresses, and Erika played violin at the reception. Many professors were invited, too, and the same English professor who came to Mark's defense of the poem originally said to me, "Just so you know, we professors love going to our students' weddings. That is a hint!" (Unfortunately, none of them were able to make it out to my Seattle wedding, but so it goes.)

Epilogue: Mark is an associate History professor at Eastern Mennonite University. Erika teaches nursing at James Madison University and is completing her Ph.D in Nursing at the University of Virginia. They are raising two children. Mark just got a Fulbright scholarship and is heading to Croatia, and his family will join him later in the year. As far as I know, they are all living happily ever after.

Sarah Reinhard of Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup in the Kidlitosphere. Speaking of the Kidlitosphere, have you thought anymore about going to the Second Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Portland, Oregon? If it is at all feasible for you to go, I'd love to see you there.

9 comments:

adrienne said...

Now *that* is an engagement story. :)

TadMack said...

Word.
How very sweet -- and complicated. And I would have either given Mark a swift kick or asked him myself, but in this case doing things the traditional way worked out for them.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

TadMack: With my own Bede, we'd talked about marriage and knew we wanted to be together for always, but wanted something of the rite of the passage and an actual story involved in the proposal. I suspect that's how it was for Mark and Erika too. Sure, she could have asked him and had a whole scenario dreamed up, but (and I wish I could write this in tiny letters to indicate whispering) sometimes take-charge women get tired of being so take-charge all the time! Sometimes we want a little wooing on the part of our significant beloveds.

Adrienne: Yes indeed. I love a story!

Lone Star Ma said...

I concur, Alkelda. And what a sweet story.

John & Kelley said...

This is a great story, and I think the poem is quite clever. What interesting friends you have! And it does sound like their life is still an adventure these days. Thanks for sharing.

I'd love to go to the conference, but my baby's still too young for me to leave her in my opinion. Maybe next year? It would be a daring thing for me to do, as I'm not one to travel solo on long distances. I like to have a traveling companion. Who knows if I'll have the guts to do it?

--Kelley

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: I thought you might understand.

Kelley: I understand. The first time I left my daughter for anything longer than overnight, she was 2 years old and I traveled with my brother for a wedding. I missed her so much! Maybe the next conference will be closer to where you live. There's a clamoring for it to be on the East Coast.

Lone Star Ma said...

Y'all are brave. My first baby was six before she really spent a night away from us, although I started working the very occasional overnight shift when she was 4. The LSB is almost 4 and I cannot imagine leaving her overnight. Of course, being home in the day most of the time with the kids might make that feel very different, I imagine.

bookbk said...

I am very very tempted by the Kidlitosphere meetup this year! Can't say for sure yet, as so much is uncertain right now, including job schedule and living situation (new job, maybe a new house, will see...) But hoping to know soon.

Vivian said...

This is a romantic story. Thanks for sharing it!